When Jesus Got Married
I love weddings. The joy. The joining of lives. Bringing together family and friends. The celebration. There’s just something good about weddings. In this article, I want to talk about a historic wedding that is rarely discussed but of tremendous importance.
I want to talk about when Jesus got married.
Now, before you dismiss me as a poor surrogate for Dan Brown, hear me out. I genuinely think that the text of the canonical New Testament tells a story about Jesus getting married. But before I try to convince you of that, we need to look at some biblical context first.
Some Old Testament Context
Context is the information surrounding everything, including Scriptural passages, which helps us understand and make sense of what’s going on. And to get that context, we need to look at several passages of Scripture, beginning with a story that we find in Genesis 24. Prior to this story, we meet a guy named Abraham. Abraham is called by God and told that he would become the father of God’s people on earth. Eventually, Old Abe has a son, Isaac. Unfortunately, Isaac was a bit of a spoiled brat. And so as he gets older, Abraham has to help him find a wife. To do this, Abraham sends one of his servants to the city of his extended family—and this is what happens:
Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.
The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not. When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.”
The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Then food was set before him to eat. (Genesis 24.10-33, ESV)
The story continues in the rest of the chapter with Isaac ending up betrothed and eventually married to Rebekah. On one level, this seems like a pretty standard Old Testament story: guy needs thing, guy does thing, God makes it all work out, the end.
The Progression of This Wedding Story
But I want us to notice the progression of this story.
First, we’re introduced to our main character: Abraham’s servant, who is standing in for Isaac. Then, that character travels away from home: in this case, he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. Next, we find our character at a well: And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening. While there, a woman shows up and they have a nice conversation about water and who the woman is. (This takes up the bulk of this story). Then we get what’s called a hospitality exchange. In ancient culture, how you communicate hospitality is a big deal, so there’s this elaborate back-and-forth dance about “This is what happened!” and a “Where is he? Bring him inside!” response. Finally, this is all followed up by a wedding.
Now, you might be thinking, that’s all pretty normal-ish and boring, Jacob. Why are we talking about the narrative progression of this random story in Genesis 24? I’ll explain, I promise. But first, let’s look at Exodus 2.
Another Old Testament Wedding Story
In this story, we encounter Moses. Moses is famous for leading God’s people out of slavery in the land of Egypt. But before he did that, he has this period of time when he flees Egypt and lives out in the desert. And right at the beginning of this part of Moses’ story, we see this:
But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2.15-22 ESV)
Did you see it?
We’re introduced to our main character (Moses), who travels to a foreign land (Midian), and finds himself at a well. A woman shows up—in this case, the seven daughters of the priest of Midian who are drawing water for their flocks. Rather than a specific conversation between Moses and these women, Moses intervenes on their behalf, fighting off shepherds. The ladies then return home, where we see the hospitality exchange take place: “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” And then, in due course, Moses and Zipporah get married. In short, Moses finds his wife Zipporah the same way that Isaac finds his wife Rebekah.
But wait, there’s more. If you look at the Old Testament stories of how Jacob finds his wives Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29 or how King David ends up married to Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 or several other Old Testament stories, you’ll find the same thing. Time and time again, someone travels to a foreign place, sits by a well, has a conversation with a woman about water, engages in a hospitality exchange, and then ends up married to that woman. In other words, this is how you find a wife in ancient Israel!
The Wedding Typology
This is what we call a typology. It’s the way you tell a certain story in a certain culture. We have typologies today too. For example: imagine a rich, somewhat arrogant guy who suffers a catastrophic loss and then has to reinvent himself and use his wealth and maybe newfound powers for good. Who is that describing?
Batman? Iron Man? Dr. Strange? Mr. Fantastic? About 100 other superheroes? That’s one of our basic modern-day typologies: superhero origin stories. It’s not how they all are, but it’s a well-used typology.
We use typologies to tell a story. And what we see with Isaac and Moses and others in the Old Testament is the ancient Hebrew typology for getting married. This is the pattern for how to get a wife. Just like when you see wedding day photos and expect that someone gets married, when you see this story playing out in Scripture, you expect someone to get married.
A New Testament Wedding
Now, you can probably see where I’m going with this. So let’s look at one more story, this time from John chapter 4, that begins like this: And he [Jesus] had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
As John begins this story, what do we see? Jesus leaves home and ends up sitting by a well. Intriguing. (Also, there are no throwaway lines in the Bible, so notice how John subtly gets you thinking about the story of Jacob: he mentions that it’s Jacob’s well that Jesus happens to be sitting by.) From the perspective of the biblical writers, as you begin to hear this story, your typology alarms should be going off and you should be thinking that this is going to be the story of how Jesus gets married.
Let’s continue with verse 7: A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
Ah ha, the woman! A woman whom Jesus asks for water! We’ve heard this story before.
John continues: (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
So, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman are having a conversation about water here. That much is expected. But they’re not just talking about regular water. There’s actually no actual water really involved in the story yet. And this is the first reversal in this story, the first time that the story subverts your expectations. According to the typology, the woman is supposed to provide water for the man. But here, Jesus is actually the one who says He’s going to provide water. Now, the Samaritan Woman still thinks that He’s talking about physical water, so He’s going to explain what He really means as the conversation progresses.
So John continues in verses 16-17: Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Here, the story seems to get back on track. This is an eligibility check. This is the equivalent to looking for a wedding ring on someone’s hand at the bar. Are you single? Are you taken?
Jesus continues: Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Broadening the Conversation
This is the entirety of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. And it hasn’t gone quite the way you’d expect the typology of the story to go. Because here we see another key reversal: after she changes the subject from the issue of how many husbands she’s had, Jesus reveals that He’s not interested in the Samaritan Woman romantically, but in anyone who truly follows God. In other words, Jesus has broadened the terms of the “finding a wife” typology.
Whereas in ancient Israel, you go to a well in a foreign land to find one woman to marry, Jesus goes to a well in a foreign land to deliver the news that He’s willing to be joined with anyone who will give allegiance to God—even a foreign woman who was hated by most of Jesus’s people.
We’ll come back to this in a moment, but first, let’s finish the story: Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him. [We’re going to skip the conversation between Jesus and His disciples in verses 31-38. Then,] Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.
This is the hospitality exchange: the woman goes and mentions the man she had a conversation with, her people ask where He’s at, and then they extend hospitality to Him. But then, instead of concluding with an actual marriage to the Samaritan Woman, the story continues the reversal begun earlier: And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Thus ends this story about Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. And it’s very clearly a story about Jesus finding a wife—it follows the typology too closely to be anything else.
Jesus travels to a foreign land, sits at a well, has a conversation with a woman about living water, and engages in a hospitality exchange. Jesus is finding a wife here. But this is a wife-finding story with a major reversal of our expectations.
Because in this wife-finding story, Jesus doesn’t marry the Samaritan Woman, but instead makes it clear that He wants to marry the entire world. Jesus doesn’t want an exclusive relationship with just one person—He wants to be in a relationship with anyone who’s willing to follow Him. And the Samaritan Woman and her community recognize this fact. Jesus isn’t looking for a wife but has come as the Savior of the world. This story doesn’t end with Jesus married to the Samaritan Woman—but married to the whole world.
And because of that, this story leaves us with some really important takeaways:
First (and least importantly), the next time someone brings up an off-the-wall theory about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene or someone else, you can one-up them and say, “well actually, according to the biblical typology of John 4, Jesus is married to the entire world.”
But second and more seriously, this story reveals that Jesus loves everyone—including you! Sometimes, I wonder if our desire to reaffirm that God loves everyone leaves us feeling like God doesn’t love us as individuals. This is actually known as a quantification fallacy: because something applies generally to everyone, it can seem like it doesn’t apply individually to me. This is where the Samaritan Woman was. She had some decent theology—she knew God was real. But she didn’t really know that God loved her, individually, until Jesus made that clear.
When you hear that Jesus is the Savior of the world, don’t forget that the world includes you. Jesus brings this news not just to the world, but to specific, individual, broken, sinful, so-shamed-that-she’s-getting-water-in-the-heat-of-the-day people too. He loves the Samaritan Woman, regardless of what she’s done. And He loves you too, regardless of what you’ve done.
And the third lesson from this story for us is that Jesus wants to marry you. You probably haven’t heard someone say that to you before, so let me say it again. Jesus wants to marry you. He loves you that much. All He asks is that you worship God in spirit and in truth, that you recognize Him as the Savior of the world, and that you give yourself to Him, as He gave Himself for you. This is actually an image that other parts of the New Testament pick up: Christ marrying the Church, Christ loving us so much that He gave Himself up for us. 2000 years ago, Jesus made the decision to live and die and rise from the dead so that He can fix what’s wrong with the world and be in a relationship with anyone who wants to be with Him.
So let me ask: like the Samaritan Woman, will you marry Jesus?